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Less than half of European consumers trust the food system, reveals pan-European study

A new pan-European study of more than 20,000 consumers reveals that less than half of consumers have confidence in the food sector, with just a third believing that the food they eat is sustainable.

05 Apr 2022
  • Study of 20,000 consumers across 18 European countries reveals less than half of consumers trust food manufacturers and authorities 
  • Three-quarters of Europeans say they want to live a sustainable lifestyle, yet only half consider sustainability in their food choices 
  • Consumers report concern about environmental impact of food system as only a third believe that food is sustainable. 

The EIT Food Trust Report surveyed 20,326 consumers from 18 European countries to measure trust in the food system and confidence in food products.

The report includes data from the EIT Food TrustTracker® 2021, an evidence-based, peer-reviewed tool for measuring consumer trust that has been running since 2018, alongside a qualitative study of the in-depth views of individuals across Europe. EIT Food is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, and the study was conducted by a consortium of pan-European academic partners including the University of Reading, the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), Aarhus University, KU Leuven, and the University of Warsaw.  

Download the EIT Food Trust Report 2021 here

Less than half (47%) of Europeans say that they have confidence in the integrity of food products. The report shows that just 48% of consumers state that they trust food manufacturers and authorities, while over a quarter (25% and 29% respectively) actively mistrust them.  

Looking at this in more detail, whereas consumers generally think that manufacturers are competent (58% of consumers agree with this) and have the necessary skills (55%), only a third believe that they are sufficiently open (37%) or honest about their role in the food system (36%) – pointing to a lack of transparency being at the root of this lack of trust. 

Likewise, for authorities, transparency and engagement with consumers is also an issue, with only 39% of European citizens thinking that they are sufficiently open, and 37% believing they do enough to listen to the views of ordinary people. 

Retailers, however, hold greater public trust, with over half (54%) of consumers reporting that they trust retailers in terms of their competency, openness and care. 

Trust in farmers, meanwhile, is the highest of any group in the food industry, with 67% of consumers expressing trust. Figures for all actors remain largely in line with the figures for 2021 – showing that trust in these groups has remained steady year-on-year. 

Sustainable food choices 

The European public is concerned about the environmental impact of the food system, with only a third (37%) believing that their food is sustainable. 

The report also reveals that while 76% of Europeans say they are motivated to live a sustainable life, just half (51%) take sustainability into account when making food choices. This indicates that there is a gap between consumers wanting to make choices that protect the planet, and actually make impactful lifestyle changes – known as the ‘attitude-behaviour gap’.  

When it comes to new innovations in food products, 37% of Europeans are open to adopting new foods, but the majority of Europeans are hesitant – indicating that the food system has more to do in promoting trust in food innovation. 

Saskia Nuijten, Director of Communication and Public Engagement at EIT Food, said:

“People are at the heart of our mission to make Europe’s food system healthier and more sustainable. Helping to build trust between consumers and the food sector is critical if we are to improve food for everyone. As well as new innovations that help transform our food system, citizens need and want access to better and clearer information. There is a growing desire for simplicity and clarity, while the pandemic has led to many prioritising community values. In particular, consumers value transparency at every stage of the food chain, and the food sector must rise to meet this challenge.” 

Dr. Anna Macready, Associate Professor at University of Reading, said:

“The food system must be transformed if we are to succeed in ensuring it can deliver healthy, sustainable food for all. We cannot achieve this without bringing consumers into the heart of this journey, so that they can trust that the food they eat is both good for them, and for the planet. As we develop the new innovations and technologies needed to future proof the food system, we must do more to engage with consumers directly, supporting them to make the right decisions that lead to a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.” 

Maxine Roper, Co-founder of Connecting Food, an EIT Food RisingFoodStar startup that uses blockchain technology to make food more transparent, said: 

“At its core, transparency is about reconnecting with consumers in a way that helps them to trust and understand how their food is produced. In the past, the way in which food brands have been marketed has sometimes led to overstated or untrustworthy claims about the product, which has understandably led many consumers to be sceptical of the information they receive. Instead, we need clear and accessible data on the traceability of our supply chains, to help consumers build up greater trust in the food chain.” 

  • Learn more about Connecting Food, as well as another organisations and projects woking to increase consumerr trust and food system transparency, here
  • For more information, please contact  

About the study 

The EIT Food TrustTracker® is an evidence-based, peer-reviewed tool for measuring consumer trust. It maps European consumers’ trust in the food value chain by country and over time using validated measurement scales – including beliefs about the competency, care and openness of its actors, and confidence in the integrity of food products (authenticity, health, safety, sustainability and taste). In its first year, 2018, the TrustTracker® surveyed over 5,000 consumers online across five European countries. In 2020 this expanded to over 19,800 consumers across 18 European countries: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK. The study was conducted by a consortium of pan-European academic partners led by the University of Reading, with the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), Aarhus University, KU Leuven, and the University of Warsaw. 

The survey was conducted in 2021 by Ipsos. Participants were 20,326 European food consumers over 18 years old that were evenly split across the 18 countries and nationally representative in terms of age, gender and region. In order to compare changes over time we use the consistent 5-country sample that has been surveyed by the TrustTracker® every year since 2018: France, Germany, Poland, Spain, UK. 

Alongside the survey, EIT Food also carried out a qualitative study engaging with individuals across Europe to better understand citizens’ needs, wants, perceptions, intentions, questions, concerns and ideas around food products and the food system. The insights featured in the report were drawn from a qualitative online study including more than 200 participants from 18 countries (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK), conducted by the Future of Food Institute in 2020 and 2021, alongside in-depth focus groups of 38 consumers across Europe in November and December 2021. 

About EIT Food  

EIT Food is the world’s largest and most dynamic food innovation community. We accelerate innovation to build a future-fit food system that produces healthy and sustainable food for all. ​   

Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, we invest in projects, organisations and individuals that share our goals for a healthy and sustainable food system. We unlock innovation potential in businesses and universities, and create and scale agrifood startups to bring new technologies and products to market. We equip entrepreneurs and professionals with the skills needed to transform the food system and put consumers at the heart of our work, helping build trust by reconnecting them to the origins of their food.   

We are one of eight innovation communities established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), an independent EU body set up in 2008 to drive innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.  

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